Pico Della Mirandola - THE LIFE OF GIOVANNI PICO, EARL OF MIRANDOLA.

THE LIFE OF GIOVANNI PICO, EARL OF MIRANDOLA.

 

Giovanni Pico of the father's[2] side descended of the worthy lineage of th'emperor Constantine by a nephew of the said Emperor called Pico, by whom all the ancestors of this Giovanni Pico undoubtedly bear that name. But we shall let his ancestors pass, to whom (though they were right excellent) he gave again as much honour as he received. And we shall speak of himself rehearsing in part his learning and his virtue. For these be the things which may account for our own, of which every man is more properly to be commended than of the nobleness of his ancestors: whose honour maketh us not honourable. For either they were themselves virtuous or not: if not, then had they none honour themselves had they never so great possessions: for honour is the reward of virtue. And how may they claim the reward that properly belongeth to virtue: if they lack the virtue that the reward belongeth to. Then if themselves had none honour: how might they leave to their heirs that thing which they had not themselves. On the other side if they be virtuous and so consequently honourable, yet may they not leave their honour to us as inheritance: no more than the virtue that themselves were honourable for. For never the more noble be we for their nobleness: if our self lack those things for which they were noble. But rather the more worshipful that our ancestors were, the more vile and shameful be we: if we decline from the steps of their worshipful living: the clear beauty of whose virtue maketh the dark spot of our vice the more evidently to appear and to be the more marked. But Pico of whom we speak was himself so honourable, for the great plenteous abundance of all such virtues, the possession whereof very honour followeth (as a shadow followeth a body) that he was to all them that aspire to honour a very spectacle, in whose conditions as in a clear polished mirror they might behold in what points very honour standeth: whose marvellous cunning & excellent virtue though my rude learning be far unable sufficiently to express: yet forasmuch as if no man should do it but he it might sufficiently do it, no man should do it: & better it were to be unsufficiently done than utterly undone: I shall therefore as I can briefly rehearse you his whole life: at the least wise to give some other man here after (that can do it better) occasion to take it in hand when it shall haply grieve him to see the life of such an excellent cunning man so far uncunningly written.

 

OF HIS PARENTS AND TIME OF HIS BIRTH.

In the year of our Lord God M.CCCC.lxiii Pius the second being then the general vicar of Christ in his church: and Frederick the third of the name ruling the empire: this noble man was borne the last child of his mother Julia, a woman come of a noble stock,[3] his father hight Giovanni Francesco, a lord of great honour and authority.

 

OF THE WONDER THAT APPEARED BEFORE HIS BIRTH.

A marvellous sight was there seen before his birth: there appeared a fiery garland standing over the chamber of his mother while she travailed & suddenly vanished away: which appearance was peradventure a token that he which should that hour in the company of mortal men be born in the perfection of understanding should be like the perfect figure of that round circle or garland: and that his excellent name should round about the circle of this whole world be magnified, whose mind should alway as the fire aspire upward to heavenly things, and whose fiery eloquence should with an ardent heart in time to come worship and praise almighty God with all his strength: and as that flame suddenly vanished so should this fire soon from the eyes of mortal people be hid. We have oftentimes read that such unknown and strange tokens hath gone before or followeth the nativities of excellent wise and virtuous men, departing (as it were) and by God's commandment severing the cradles of such special children from the company of other of the common sort: and showing that they be born to the achieving of some great thing. But to pass over other. The great Saint Ambrose: a swarm of bees flew about his mouth in his cradle, & some entered into his mouth, and after that issuing out again and flying up on high, hiding themselves among the clouds, escaped both the sight of his father and of all them that were present: which prognostication one Paulinus[4] making much of, expounded it to signify to us the sweet honeycombs of his pleasant writing: which should show out the celestial gifts of God & should lift up the mind of men from earth into heaven.

 

OF HIS PERSON.

He was of feature and shape seemly and beauteous, of stature goodly and high, of flesh tender and soft: his visage lovely and fair, his colour white intermingled with comely ruddies, his eyes grey and quick of look, his teeth white and even, his hair yellow and not to piked.[5]

 

OF HIS SETTING FORTH TO SCHOOL AND STUDY IN HUMANITY.

Under the rule and governance of his mother he was set to masters & to learning: where with so ardent mind he laboured the studies of humanity: that within short while he was (and not without a cause) accounted among the chief Orators and Poets of that time: in learning marvellously swift and of so ready a wit, that the verses which he heard once read he would again both forward and backward to the great wonder of the hearers rehearse, and over that would hold it in sure remembrance: which in other folks wont commonly to happen contrary. For they that are swift in taking be oftentimes slow in remembering, and they that with more labour & difficulty receive it more fast & surely hold it.

 

OF HIS STUDY IN CANON.

In the fourteenth year of his age by the commandment of his mother (which longed very sore to have him priest) he departed to Bononye to study in the laws of the church, which when he had two year tasted, perceiving that the faculty leaned to nothing but only mere traditions and ordinances, his mind fell from it: yet lost he not his time therein, for in that two year yet being a child he compiled a breviary or a summa upon all the Decretals, in which as briefly as possible was he comprised th'effect of all the whole great volume, and made a book no slender thing to right cunning & perfect doctors.

 

OF HIS STUDY IN PHILOSOPHY & DIVINITY.

After this as a desirous ensearcher of the secrets of nature he left these common trodden paths and gave himself whole to speculation & philosophy as well human as divine. For the purchasing whereof (after the manner of Plato and Appollonius)[6] he scrupulously sought out all the famous doctors of his time, visiting studiously all the universities and schools not only through Italy but also through France. And so indefatigable labour gave he to those studies: that yet a child and beardless he was both reputed and was in deed both a perfect philosopher and a perfect divine.

 

OF HIS MIND AND VAINGLORIOUS DISPICIONS OF ROME.

Now had he been vii. year conversant in these studies when full of pride & desirous of glory and man's praise (for yet was he not kindled in the love of God) he went to Rome, and there (coveting to make a show of his cunning: & little considering how great envy he should raise against himself) ix. C. questions he proposed, of divers & sundry matters: as well in logic and philosophy as divinity with great study picked and sought out as well of the Latin authors as the Greeks: and partly set out of the secret mysteries of the Hebrews, Chaldees, & Arabies: and many things drawn out of the old obscure philosophy of Pythagoras, Trimegistus, and Orpheus,[7] & many other things strange: and to all folk (except right few special excellent men) before that day: not unknown only: but also unheard of. All which questions in open places (that they might be to all people the better known) he fastened and set up, offering also himself to bear the costs of all such as would come hither out of far countries to dispute, but through the envy of his malicious enemies (which envy like the fire ever draweth to the highest) he could never bring about to have a day to his dispicions appointed. For this cause he tarried at Rome an whole year, in all which time his enviers never durst openly with open dispicions attempt him, but rather with craft and sleight and as it were with privy trenches enforced to undermine him, for none other cause but for malice and for they were (as many men thought) corrupt with a pestilent envy.

This envy as men deemed was specially raised against him for this cause that where there were many which had many years: some for glory: some for covetise: given themselves to learning: they thought that it should haply deface their fame & minish th'opinion of their cunning if so young a man plenteous of substance & great doctrine durst in the chief city of the world make a proof of his wit and his learning: as well in things natural as in divinity & in many such things as men many years never attained to. Now when they perceived that they could not against his cunning any thing openly prevail, they brought forth the serpentines of false crime, and cried out that there were xiij. of his ix. C. questions suspect of heresy. Then joined they to them some good simple folk that should of zeal to the faith and pretence of religion impugn those questions as new things & with which their ears had not be in ure. In which impugnation though some of them haply lacked not good mind: yet lacked they erudition and learning: which questions notwithstanding before that not a few famous doctors of divinity had approved as good and clean, and subscribed their names under them. But he not bearing the loss of his fame made a defence for those xiij. questions: a work of great erudition and elegant and stuffed with the cognition of many things worthy to be learned. Which work he compiled in xx nights. In which it evidently appeareth: not only that those conclusions were good and standing with the faith: but also that they which had barked at them were of folly and rudeness to be reproved: which defence and all other things that he should write he committed like a good Christian man to the most holy judgement of our mother holy church: which defence received: & the xiij. questions duly by deliberation examined: our holy father the Pope approved Pico and tenderly favoured him, as by a bull of our holy father Pope Alexander the vj, it plainly appeareth: but the book in which the whole. ix. C. questions with their conclusions were contained (forasmuch as there were in them many things strange and not fully declared, and were more meet for secret communication of learned men than for open hearing of common people, which for lack of cunning might take hurt thereby) Pico desired himself that it should not be read. And so was the reading thereof forbidden. Lo this end had Pico of his high mind and proud purpose, that where he thought to have gotten perpetual praise there had he much work to keep himself upright: that he ran not in perpetual infamy and slander.

 

OF THE CHANGE OF HIS LIFE.

But as himself told his nephew he judged that this came thus to pass: by the special provision and singular goodness of almighty God, that by this false crime untruly put upon him by his evil willers he should correct his very errors, and that this should be to him (wandering in darkness) as a shining light: in which he might behold & consider: how far he had gone out of the way of truth. For before this he had been both desirous of glory and kindled in vain love and holden in voluptuous use of women. The comeliness of his body with the lovely favour of his visage, and therewith all his marvellous fame, his excellent learning, great riches and noble kindred, set many women afire on him, from the desire of whom he not abhorring (the way of life set aside) was somewhat fallen into wantonness. But after that he was once with this variance wakened he drew back his mind flowing in riot & turned it to Christ, women's blandishments he changed into the desire of heavenly joys, & despising the blast of vainglory which he before desired, now with all his mind he began to seek the glory and profit of Christ's church, and so began he to order his conditions that from thenceforth he might have been approved & though his enemy were his judge.

 

OF THE FAME OF HIS VIRTUE AND THE RESORT UNTO HIM THEREFOR.

Hereupon shortly the fame of his noble cunning and excellent virtue both far & nigh began gloriously to spring for which many worthy philosophers (& that were taken in number of the most cunning) resorted busily unto him as to a market of good doctrine, some for to move questions and dispute, some (that were of more godly mind) to hear and to take the wholesome lessons and instruction of good living: which lessons were so much the more set by: in how much they came from a more noble man and a more wise man and him also which had him false some time followed the crooked hills of delicious pleasure. To the fastening of good discipline in the minds of the hearers those things seem to be of great effect: which be both of their own nature good & also be spoken of such a master as is converted to the way of justice from the crooked & ragged path of voluptuous living.

 

THE BURNING OF WANTON BOOKS.

Five books that in his youth of wanton verses of love with other like fantasies he had made in his vulgar tongue: all together (in detestation of his vice passed) and lest these trifles might be some evil occasion afterward, he burned them.

 

OF HIS STUDY AND DILIGENCE IN HOLY SCRIPTURE.

From thenceforth he gave himself day & night most fervently to the studies of scripture, in which he wrote many noble books: which well testify both his angelic wit, his ardent labour, and his profound erudition, of which books some we have & some as an inestimable treasure we have lost. Great libraries it is incredible to consider with how marvellous celerity he read them over, and wrote out what him liked: of the old fathers of the church, so great knowledge he had as it were hard for him to have that hath lived long & all his life hath done nothing else but read them. Of these newer divines so good judgement he had that it might appear there were nothing in any of them it were unknown to him, but all thing as ripe as though he had all their works ever before his eyes, but of all these new doctors he specially commendeth Saint Thomas[8] as him it enforceth himself in a sure pillar of truth. He was very quick, wise, & subtle in dispicions & had great felicity therein while he had the high stomach. But now a great while he had bade such conflicts farewell: and every day more & more hated them, and so greatly abhorred them that when Hercules Estensis Duke of Ferrara[9]: first by messengers and after by himself: desired him to dispute at Ferrara: because the general chapter of friars preachers was holden there: long it was ere he could be brought thereto: but at the instant request of the Duke which very singularly loved him he came thither, where he so behaved himself that was wonder to behold how all the audience rejoiced to hear him, for it were not possible for a man to utter neither more cunning nor more cunningly. But it was a common saying with him that such altercations were for a logician and not meetly for a philosopher, he said also that such disputations greatly profited as were exercised with a peaceable mind to th'ensearching of the truth in secret company without great audience: but he said that those dispicions did great hurt that were holden openly to th'ostentation of learning & to win the favour of the common people & the commendation of fools. He thought that utterly it could unneth be but that with the desire of worship (which these gazing disputers gape after) there is with an inseparable bond annexed the appetite of his confusion & rebuke whom they argue with, which appetite is a deadly wound to the soul, & a mortal poison to charity. There was nothing passed him of those capicious subtleties & cavillations of sophistry, nor again there was nothing that he more hated & abhorred, considering that they served of nought but to the shaming of such other folk as were in very science much better learned and in those trifles ignorant and it unto th'ensearching of the truth (to which he gave continual labour) they profited little or nought.

 

OF HIS LEARNING UNIVERSALLY.

But because we will hold the reader no longer in hand: we will speak of his learning but a word or twain generally. Some man hath shined in eloquence, but ignorance of natural things hath dishonested him. Some man hath flowered in the knowledge of divers strange languages, but he hath wanted all the cognition of philosophy. Some man hath read the inventions of the old philosophers, but he hath not been exercised in the new schools. Some man hath sought cunning as well philosophy as divinity for praise and vainglory and not for any profit or increase of Christ's church. But Pico all these things with equal study hath so received that they might seem by heaps as a plenteous theme to have flowen into him. For he was not of the condition of some folk (which to be excellent in one thing set all other aside) but he in all sciences profited so excellently: that which of them soever he had considered, in him ye would have thought that he had taken that one for his only study. And all these things were in him so much the more marvellous in that he came thereto by himself with the strength of his own wit for the love of God and profit his church without masters, so that we may say of him that Epicure the philosopher said of him that he was his own master.[10]

 

FIVE CAUSES THAT IN SO SHORT TIME BROUGHT HIM TO SO MARVELLOUS CUNNING.

To the bringing forth of so wonderful effects in so small time I consider five causes to have come together: first an incredible wit, secondly a marvellous fast memory, thirdly great substance by the which to the buying of his books as well Latin as Greek & other tongues he was especially holpen. VIJ.M. ducats he had laid out in the gathering together of volumes of all manner of literature. The fourth cause was his busy and infatigable study. The fifth was the contempt despising of all earthly things.

 

OF HIS CONDITIONS AND HIS VIRTUE.

But now let us pass over those powers of his soul which appertain to understanding & knowledge & let us speak of them that belong to the achieving of noble acts, let us as we can declare his excellent conditions that his mind inflamed to Godward may appear, and his riches given out to poor folk may be understood, th'intent that they which shall hear his virtue may have occasion thereby to give especial laud & thanks to almighty God, of whose infinite goodness all grace and virtue cometh.

 

OF THE SALE OF HIS LORDSHIPS AND ALMS.

Three year before his death (to th'end that all the charge & business of rule or lordship set aside he might lead his life in rest and peace, well considering to what end this earthly honour & worldly dignity cometh) all his patrimony and dominions: that is to say: the third part of th'earldom of Mirandola and of Concordia: unto Giovanni Francesco his nephew he sold, and that so good cheap that it seemed rather a gift than a sale.[11] All that ever he received of this bargain partly he gave out to poor folk, partly he bestowed in the buying of a little land, finding of him & his household. And over that: much silver vessel & plate with other precious & costly utensils of household he divided among poor people. He was content with mean fare at his table, howbeit somewhat yet retaining of the old plenty in dainty viand & silver vessel. Every day at certain hours he gave himself to prayer. To poor men always if any came he plenteously gave out his money: & not content only to give that he had himself ready: he wrote over it to one Hierom Benivenius [12] a Florentine, a well lettered man (whom for his great love toward him & the integrity of his conditions he singularly favoured) that he should with his own money ever help poor folk: & give maidens money to their marriage: and alway send him word what he had laid out that he might pay it him again. This office he committed to him that he might the more easily by him as by a faithful messenger relieve the necessity & misery of poor needy people such as himself haply could not come by the knowledge of.

 

OF THE VOLUNTARY AFFLICTION & PAINING OF HIS OWN BODY.

Over all this: many times (which is not to be kept secret) he gave alms of his own body: we know many men which (as Saint Hierom[13] saith) put forth their hand to poor folk: but with the pleasure of the flesh they be overcome: but he many days (and namely[14] those days which represent unto us the passion & death that Christ suffered for our sake) beat and scourged his own flesh in the remembrance of that great benefit and for cleansing of his old offences.

 

OF HIS PLACABILITY OR BENIGN NATURE.

He was of cheer always merry & of so benign nature that he was never troubled with anger & he said once to his nephew that whatsoever should happen (fell there never so great misadventure) he could never as him thought be moved to wrath but if his chests perished in which his books lay that he had with great travail & watch compiled: but forasmuch as he considered that he laboured only for the love of God & profit of his church: & that he had dedicate unto him all his works, his studies & his doings: & sith he saw that sith God is almighty they could not miscarry but if it were either by his commandment or by his sufferance: he verily trusted: sith God is all good: that he would not suffer him to have that occasion of heaviness. O very happy mind which none adversity might oppress, which no prosperity might enhance: not the cunning of all philosophy was able to make him proud, not the knowledge of the Hebrew, Chaldee & Arabic language beside Greek and Latin could make him vainglorious, not his great substance, not his noble blood, could blow up his heart, not the beauty of his body, not the great occasion of sin were able to pull him back into the voluptuous broad way that leadeth to hell: what thing was there of so marvellous strength that might overturn that mind of him: which now (as Seneca saith) was gotten above fortune[15] as he which as well her favour as her malice hath set at nought, that he might be coupled with a spiritual knot unto Christ and his heavenly citizens.

 

HOW HE ESCHEWED DIGNITIES.

When he saw many men with great labour & money desire & busily purchase the offices & dignities of the church (which are nowadays alas the while commonly bought & sold) himself refused to receive them when two kings offered them: when another man offered him great worldly promotion if he would go to the king's court: he gave him such an answer, that he should well know that he neither desired worship ne worldly riches but rather set them at nought that he might the more quietly give himself to study & the service of God: this wise he persuaded, that to a philosopher and him that seeketh for wisdom it was no praise to gather riches but to refuse them.

 

OF THE DESPISING OF WORLDLY GLORY.

All praise of people and all earthly glory he reputed utterly for nothing: but in the renaying of this shadow of glory he laboured for very glory which ever more followeth virtue as an unseparable servant. He said that fame oftentimes did hurt to men while they live, & never good when they be dead. So much only set he by his learning in how much he knew that it was profitable to the church & to the extermination of errors. And over that: he was come to that prick of perfect humility that he little forced whether his works went out under his own name or not so that they might as much profit as if they were given out under his name. And now set he little by any other books save only the Bible, in the only study of which he had appointed himself to spend the residue of his life, saving that the common profit pricked him when he considered so many & so great works as he had conceived & long travailed upon how they were of every man by and by[16] desired and looked after.

 

HOW MUCH HE SET MORE BY DEVOTION THAN CUNNING.

The little affection of an old man or an old woman to Godward (were it never so small) he set more by: than by all his own knowledge as well of natural things as godly. And oftentimes in communication he would admonish his familiar friends how greatly these mortal things bow and draw to an end, how slippery & how falling it is that we live in now: how firm how stable it shall be that we shall hereafter live in, whether we be thrown down into hell or lifted up into heaven. Wherefore he exhorted them to turn up their minds to love God, which was a thing far excelling all the cunning it is possible for us in this life to obtain. The same thing also in his book which he entitled "De Ente et Uno" lightsomely he treateth where he interrupteth the course of his dispicion and turning his words to Angelo Politiano (to whom he dedicateth that book) he writeth in this wise. But now behold O my wellbeloved Angelo what madness holdeth us. Love God (while we be in this body) we rather may: than either know him or by speech utter him. In loving him also we more profit ourselves, we labour less & serve him more, & yet had we lever alway by knowledge never find that thing that we seek: than by love to possess that thing which also without love were in vain found.[17]

 

OF HIS LIBERALITY & CONTEMPT OF RICHES.

Liberality only in him passed measure: for so far was he from the beginning of any diligence to earthly things that he seemed somewhat besprent with the freckle of negligence. His friends oftentimes admonished him that he should not all utterly despise riches, showing him that it was his dishonesty and rebuke when it was reported (were it true or false) that his negligence & setting nought by money gave his servants occasion of deceit & robbery. Nevertheless that mind of his (which evermore on high cleaved fast in contemplation & in th'ensearching of nature's counsel) could never let down itself to the consideration and overseeing of these base abject and vile earthly trifles. His high steward came on a time to him & desired him to receive his account of such money as he had in many years received of him: and brought forth his books of reckoning. Pico answered him in this wise, my friend (saith he) I know well ye have mought oftentimes and yet may deceive me an ye list, wherefore the examination of these expenses shall not need. There is no more to do, if I be ought in your debt I shall pay you by & by,[18] & if ye be in mine pay me: either now if ye have it: or hereafter if ye be now not able.

 

OF HIS LOVING MIND & VIRTUOUS BEHAVIOUR TO HIS FRIENDS.

His lovers and friends with great benignity & courtesy he entreated, whom he used in all secret communing virtuously to exhort to Godward, whose goodly words so effectually wrought in the hearers that where a cunning man (but not so good as cunning) came to him on a day for the great fame of his learning to commune with him, as they fell in talking of virtue he was with the words of Pico so thoroughly pierced that forthwith all he forsook his accustomed vice and reformed his conditions. The words that he said unto him were these: if we had evermore before our eyes the painful death of Christ which he suffered for the love of us: and then if we would again think upon our death: we should well beware of sin. Marvellous benignity & courtesy he showed unto them: not whom strength of body or goods of fortune magnified but to them whom learning & conditions bound him to favour: for similitude of manners is a cause of love & friendship. A likeness of conditions is (as Appollonius saith) an affinity.[19]

 

WHAT HE HATED AND WHAT HE LOVED.

There was nothing more odious nor more intolerable to him than as (Horace[20] saith) the proud palaces of stately lords: wedding and worldly business he fled almost alike: notwithstanding when he was asked once in sport whether of those two burdens seemed lighter & which he would choose if he should of necessity be driven to that one and at his election: which he sticked thereat a while but at the last he shook his head and a little smiling he answered that he had lever take him to marriage, as that thing in which was less servitude & not so much jeopardy. Liberty above all thing he loved, to which both his own natural affection & the study of philosophy inclined him: & for that was he always wandering & flyting & would never take himself to any certain dwelling.[21]

 

OF HIS FERVENT LOVE TO GOD.

Of outward observances he gave no very great force: we speak not of those observances which the church commandeth to be observed, for in those he was diligent: but we speak of those ceremonies which folk bring up setting the very service of God aside, which is (as Christ saith) to be worshipped in spirit & in truth. But in the inward affects of the mind he cleaved to God with very fervent love and devotion: some time that marvellous alacrity languished and almost fell, and eft again with great strength rose up into God. In the love of whom he so fervently burned that on a time as he walked with Giovanni Francesco his nephew in an orchard at Ferrara, in the talking of the love of Christ he brake out into these words, nephew, said he, this will I show thee, I warn thee keep it secret: the substance that I have left after certain books of mine finished I intend to give out to poor folk, & fencing myself with the crucifix, barefoot walking about the world, in every town and castle I purpose to preach of Christ. Afterward I understand by the special commandment of God he changed that purpose and appointed to profess him self in the order of friars preachers.

 

OF HIS DEATH.

In the year of our redemption, M.CCCC.XCIIII. when he had fulfilled the xxxii. year of his age & abode at Florence, he was suddenly taken with a fervent access[22] which so farforth crept into the interior parts of his body, that it despised all medicines & overcame all remedy, and compelled him within three days to satisfy nature and repay her the life which he received of her.

 

OF HIS BEHAVIOUR IN THE EXTREMES OF HIS LIFE.

After that he had received the holy body of our Saviour when they offered unto him the crucifix (that in the image of Christ's ineffable passion suffered for our sake he might ere he gave up the ghost receive his full draught of love and compassion in the beholding of that pitiful figure as a strong defence against all adversity and a sure portcullis against wicked spirits) the priest demanded him whether he firmly believed that crucifix to be the Image of him that was very God & very man: which in his Godhead was before all time begotten of his father: to whom he is also equal in all thing: and which of the Holy Ghost God also: of him & of the Father coeternally going forth (which .iij. persons be one God) was in the chaste womb of our lady a perpetual virgin conceived in time: which suffered hunger, thirst, heat, cold, labour, travail, & watch and which at the last for washing of our spotty sin contracted and drawn unto us in the sin of Adam, for the sovereign love that he had to mankind, in the altar of the cross willingly & gladly shed out his most precious blood. When the priest enquired of him these things & such other as they be wont to enquire of folk in such case, Pico answered him that he not only believed it but also certainly knew it. When it one Alberto [23] his sister's son: a young man both of wit, cunning, & conditions excellent: began to comfort him against death: & by natural reason to show him why it was not to be feared but strongly to be taken: as that only thing which maketh an end of all the labour, pain, trouble, & sorrow of this short miserable deadly life: he answered that this was not the chief thing it should make him content to die: because that death determineth the manifold incommodities and painful wretchedness of this life: but rather this cause should make him not content only but also glad to die: for that death maketh an end of sin: in as much as he trusted the shortness of his life should leave him no space to sin and offend. He asked also all his servants' forgiveness, if he had ever before that day offended any of them. For whom he had provided by his testament viij. years before, for some of them meat and drink, for some money, each of them after their deserving. He showed also to the above named Alberto & many other credible persons that the queen of heaven came to him that night with a marvellous fragrant odour refreshing all his members that were bruised & frushed [24] with that fever, & promised him that he should not utterly die. He lay always with a pleasant and a merry countenance, and in the very twitches and pangs of death he spake as though he beheld the heavens open. And all that came to him & saluted him offering their service with very loving words he received, thanked, & kissed. The executor of his moveable goods he made one Antonio his brother.[25] The heir of his lands he made the poor people of the hospital of Florence. And in this wise into the hands of our Saviour he gave up his spirit.

 

HOW HIS DEATH WAS TAKEN.

What sorrow and heaviness his departing out of this world was: both to rich and poor, high & low: well testifieth the princes of Italy, well witnesseth the cities & people, well recordeth the great benignity and singular courtesy of Charles king of France,[26] which as he came to Florence, intending from thence to Rome and so forth in his voyage against the Realm of Naples, hearing of the sickness of Pico, in all convenient haste he sent him two of his own physicians as ambassadors both to visit him and to do him all the help they might: and over that sent unto him letters subscribed with his own hand full of such humanity and courteous offers as the benevolent mind of such a noble prince and the worthy virtues of Pico required.

 

OF THE STATE OF HIS SOUL.

After his death (and not long after) Hieronimus [27] a friar preacher of Ferrara, a man as well in cunning as holiness of living most famous, in a sermon which he rehearsed in the chief church of all Florence said unto the people in this wise. O thou City of Florence I have a secret thing to show thee which is as true as the gospel of Saint John. I would have kept it secret but I am compelled to show it. For he that hath authority to command me, hath bid me publish it. I suppose verily that there be none of you but ye knew Giovanni Pico Earl of Mirandola, a man in whom God had heaped many great gifts and singular graces, the church had of him an inestimable loss, for I suppose if he might have had the space of his life prolonged: he should have excelled (by such works as he should have left behind him) all them that died this .viii.C. year before him. He was wont to be conversant with me and to break to me the secrets of his heart: in which I perceived that he was by privy inspiration called of God unto religion. Wherefore he purposed oftentimes to obey this inspiration and follow his calling. Howbeit not being kind enough for so great benefices of God: or called back by the tenderness of his flesh (as he was a man of delicate complexion) he shrank from the labour, or thinking haply that the religion had no need of him deferred it for a time, howbeit this I speak only by conjecture.[28] But for this delay I threatened him two year together: that he would be punished if he forslothed that purpose which our Lord had put in his mind, & certainly I prayed to God myself (I will not lie therefore) that he might be somewhat beaten: to compel him to take that way which God had from above showed him. But I desired not this scourge upon him that he was beaten with: I looked not for that: but our Lord had so decreed that he should forsake this present life and leave a part of that noble crown that he should have had in heaven. Notwithstanding the most benign judge hath dealt mercifully with him: and for his plenteous alms given out with a free and liberal hand unto poor people & for the devout prayers which he most instantly offered unto God this favour he hath: though his soul be not yet in the bosom of our Lord in the heavenly joy: yet is it not on that other side deputed unto perpetual pain, but he is adjudged for a while to the fire of purgatory, there to suffer pain for a season, which I am the gladder to show you in this behalf: to the intent it they which knew him: such especially as for his manifold benefices are singularly beholden unto him: should now with their prayers, alms, & other suffrages help him. These things this holy man Hierom, this servant of God openly asserted, and also said that he knew well if he lied in that place: he were worthy eternal damnation. And over that he said that he had known all those things within a certain time, but the words which Pico had said in his sickness of the appearing of our Lady caused him to doubt & to fear lest Pico had been deceived by some illusion of the devil: in as much as the promise of our Lady seemed to have been frustrate by his death: but afterward he understood that Pico was deceived in the equivocation of the word while she spake of the second death & everlasting & he understood her of the first death & temporal. And after this the same Hierom showed to his acquaintance that Pico had after his death appeared unto him all compassed in fire & showed unto him that he was such wise in purgatory punished for his negligence & his unkindness. Now sith it is so that he is adjudged to that fire from which he shall undoubtedly depart unto glory & no man is sure how long it shall be first: & may be the shorter time for our intercessions: let every Christian body show their charity upon him to help to speed him thither where after the long habitation with the inhabitants of this dark world (to whom his goodly conversation gave great light) & after the dark fire of purgatory (in which venial offences be cleansed) he may shortly (if he be not already) enter the inaccessible & infinite light of heaven; where he may in the presence of the sovereign Godhead so pray for us that we may the rather by his intercession be partners of that unspeakable joy which we have prayed to bring him speedily to. Amen.

 

Here endeth the life of Giovanni Pico Earl of Mirandola.

 

Prev Next